Top 12 Most Common Laundry Questions Answered

The Dirty Dozen

Woman folding clothes
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Here they are, the dirty dozen. The 12 most commonly asked laundry questions. Oh sure, I get the occasional oddball question about removing kangaroo blood from a shirt or how to dye a wedding dress hot pink. But most of the questions fall into a more common list of day-to-day laundry issues:

1. How do I brighten my dingy white clothes and linens?

Over time white clothes and linens can become dingy or yellowed from redeposited soil, dye transfer from other garments, missed stains and even using too much bleach. The key to keeping white clothes is looking bright is preventing them from discoloring in the first place.

But what if it is too late and they are already dull, gray or yellowed? Most can be revived with a bit of effort and the right products.

2. How do I remove set-in stains that have been washed and dried?

It's happened to all of us, a stain slips by and the clothes are washed and dried before the stain is discovered. Is it too late?

Removing a set-in stain is more difficult because the heat of a dryer binds the stain more tightly to the fabric fibers. Begin by following the original tips for removing the stain. Give the stain remover plenty of time to work. Don't rush through the steps.

If that doesn't work, mix a solution of oxygen-based bleach (OxiClean, Country Save Bleach and Purex 2 Color Safe Bleach are brand names) and cool water. Follow the package directions as to how much product per gallon of water. Completely submerge the stained item and allow it to soak for at least eight hours. Check the stain. If it is gone, wash as usual. If it remains, mix a fresh solution and repeat. It may take several soakings to remove the stain but this method is your best bet for success.

3. How can I prevent fading of my dark clothes?

Prevention is the key to keeping dark clothes dark. Follow these tips and your clothes will look better much longer.

If you haven't been diligent in preventing fading, there is only one way to return your clothes to their original color - dye them. Adding coffee to the rinse water to keep black clothes black won't work!

However, adding a cup of white distilled vinegar to the rinse cycle will help remove detergent residue which dulls fabric. It will also relax the fibers of the clothes so lint doesn't adhere as badly. Lint definitely dulls the look of a garment.

4. How do I remove dye transfer from clothes?

Dye transfer happens. A lone red sock hides in a load of white clothes. Careless sorting (learn how to do it correctly) turns a yellow shirt into a blue jean-tinged pea green. Removing the dye stains takes a bit of time but these tips will work for both white and colored clothes that now look tie-dyed.

5. How do I remove yellow armpit stains?

The yellow underarm stains that happen on white clothes are caused by a reaction of normal body oils and salts from perspiration and the ingredients in deodorants and antiperspirants. The stains actually happen on dark shirts as well, you just can't see the staining as prominently. Follow these tips to remove armpit stains and odor from clothes.

As a preventative measure, always keep distilled white vinegar on hand in the laundry room. Give shirts a quick spritz under the arms before washing to lessen odor and residue build-up.

6. How do I remove ink stains from clothes and leather?

The key to ink stain removal is knowing what type of ink caused the damage. It also depends on the type of fabric as to your success.

7. Why won't my washer/dryer work?

First, let me say that I'm no appliance repair expert. But I have done a few repairs and my father could fix just about anything. He might have a few extra parts left over but it worked! I get lots of questions about washers and dryers that don't work so I do have a few tips and some information that will help.

Lost your washer or dryer manual? Find it here.

8. I think my washer is staining my clothes. What can I do?

While laundry appliances have come a long way since that rock beside the stream, it is still our responsibility to be sure a washer produces its best results. It's a bit like driving a car. Sometimes the car malfunctions, sometimes it is the driver that misuses the car.

9. How do I clean my washer and dryer?

Front loading washers can develop odors if moisture or detergent residue becomes trapped in the machine. The same thing can happen to top loaders and in both models, automatic dispensers can become clogged. A clean machine is the first step to clean laundry. Neglecting a dryer can result in more than laundry problems, it can cause fires that destroy homes.

10. How do I remove odors from clothes?

Most fabric, just by its very nature, is absorbent. It absorbs moisture and odors - perspiration, smoke, perfume, cooking and musty odors. Odor removal steps depends on the origin of the odor and the fabric content of the clothes.

11. How do I remove grease stains?

Greasy stains can come from cooking oil, salad dressings or motor oil. All of these require the same treatment with an enzyme-based stain remover, warm or hot water and heavy duty detergent.

But what about those grease stains that seem to appear after clothes are washed and dried? Those are not really grease stains but are actually a build-up of fabric softener or residue from dryer sheets.

12. How do I remove brown spots on vintage fabric?

Vintage baby clothes, quilts and table linens hold a special place in our hearts. It is so disappointing to find brown spots that spoil the overall look. These stains can be caused by leftover food or body soil stains on the fabric or reactions between the fabric with wood acids. No matter the cause, we still want to see them gone.